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Two More Execs Involved in Wrongful Health Firings Leave BC Government

Few details about departures of people involved in botched 2012 investigation.

By Andrew MacLeod 4 Jul 2017 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative bureau chief in Victoria and the author of A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, 2015). Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

Two more senior managers involved in the botched 2012 health ministry firings have left the provincial government.

Health deputy minister Stephen Brown confirmed the departure of Barbara Walman in an email to ministry employees Thursday. Walman, assistant deputy minister for the pharmaceutical services division, was involved in setting the terms of reference for the investigation that resulted in the firings.

And The Tyee has learned that Wendy Taylor, one the lead investigators in the review that led to the wrongful firings is also no longer working for the B.C. government.

“I am writing to confirm that Barbara Walman no longer works for the BC Public Service,” Brown wrote.

The message provided no explanation for Walman’s departure, but said her role as assistant deputy minister of pharmaceutical services would be filled by Mitch Moneo on an acting basis.

A ministry communications person confirmed Walman’s departure. “As this is a personnel matter, I can’t go into further details,” she said.

The 2012 health ministry firings resulted in five wrongful dismissal and defamation lawsuits that were settled out of court, apologies from then-premier Christy Clark and the head of the public service, a union grievance process, some of the employees returning to work and two major investigations. One of the fired employees, Roderick MacIsaac, committed suicide.

In April Ombudsperson Jay Chalke’s office released a 487-page report on the firings titled “Misfire: The 2012 Ministry of Health Employment Terminations and Related Matters.” The report confirmed that the firings were “wrong and unjust” but advised against firing those who were responsible who still worked for the government.

Chalke’s report mentions Walman 89 times.

“She was put in an unenviable position when advised of the complaint on her second day of work at PSD [pharmaceutical services division] as she had not yet had the opportunity to gain complete knowledge about the programs within her division or about the roles of the employees identified in the initial complaint,” the report said.

Walman’s roles included overseeing the lead investigator, editing and making additions to an internal review early in the process, signing the suspension letters for three of the employees and suspending data access for contractors.

“When Ms. Walman made the decision to suspend [one researcher], the investigation had produced no evidence of any wrongdoing,” Chalke’s report said.

“Further, the investigators also had no clear understanding of [the researcher’s] role or the programs they were reviewing. The investigators had only a vague, incomplete and poorly formed idea of wrongdoing based on little more than the allegations contained in the initial complaint to the Auditor General.”

Walman and two other health ministry assistant deputy ministers, Lindsay Kislock and Manjit Sidhu, were put in charge of investigating a complaint about data management, contracting and possible conflicts of interest in the health ministry in May 2012. On May 31, nine days after Walman became the assistant deputy minister for pharmaceutical services, the three officials approved the terms of reference for the investigation that would lead to the firings.

The Tyee reported on June 20 that Kislock had left government to become a vice-president of the Mining Association of BC.

Taylor is not mentioned by name in Chalke’s report. But former health deputy minister Graham Whitmarsh said Taylor, then with the office of the chief information officer, was one of two people “who attended every meeting and employee interview,” The Tyee reported in 2014.

“They collected all evidence and wrote all reports with respect to the entire investigation process,” he said. “In addition, they drafted all the letters advising employees of disciplinary actions.”

The provincial government has begun fulfilling Chalke’s recommendation of making roughly $1.1 million in goodwill payments to people harmed by the investigation and terminations.

A June 29 letter from the head of the public service, Kim Henderson, to one of the people terminated, says the payment is “in recognition of the significant harm you suffered as a result of this unfair investigative process and its aftermath.”

“I apologize for your suspension and dismissal, and the length of time government took to realize its own actions were wrong,” the letter says.  [Tyee]

Read more: Health, BC Politics

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